The Space Barons

Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the Quest to Colonize the Cosmos

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By Christian Davenport

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The historic quest to rekindle the human exploration and colonization of space led by two rivals and their vast fortunes, egos, and visions of space as the next entrepreneurial frontier

The Space Barons is the story of a group of billionaire entrepreneurs who are pouring their fortunes into the epic resurrection of the American space program. Nearly a half-century after Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, these Space Barons-most notably Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, along with Richard Branson and Paul Allen-are using Silicon Valley-style innovation to dramatically lower the cost of space travel, and send humans even further than NASA has gone. These entrepreneurs have founded some of the biggest brands in the world-Amazon, Microsoft, Virgin, Tesla, PayPal-and upended industry after industry. Now they are pursuing the biggest disruption of all: space.

Based on years of reporting and exclusive interviews with all four billionaires, this authoritative account is a dramatic tale of risk and high adventure, the birth of a new Space Age, fueled by some of the world’s richest men as they struggle to end governments’ monopoly on the cosmos. The Space Barons is also a story of rivalry-hard-charging startups warring with established contractors, and the personal clashes of the leaders of this new space movement, particularly Musk and Bezos, as they aim for the moon and Mars and beyond.

Excerpt

INTRODUCTION

“Touchdown”

THEY CAUGHT THEIR first glimpse of it at 25,000 feet and falling fast. Normally, a rocket dropping like a bomb would be cause for panic. But instead, the four hundred or so people gathered in the employee lounge at Blue Origin’s headquarters outside Seattle were thrilled to see the booster plummeting toward Earth.

“Estimate ten seconds to engine start,” the flight controller announced.

The employees, mostly engineers, were packed in, watching the rocket in free fall on a giant screen. Some had their hands over their mouth. Others sat forward with fists clenched. Mostly, they were silent, waiting for what would happen next.

“Engine start,” said the flight controller. “We have thrust.”

At that, the employees started cheering wildly. Just minutes before on this morning three days before Thanksgiving in 2015, the engine had fired to lift the rocket off the launchpad at Blue Origin’s West Texas test site, flying it faster than the speed of sound past the 62-mile threshold that’s considered the edge of space. But now that the rocket was falling back, the thrust had the opposite effect: it was slowing the rocket down, preventing it from slamming into the ground and exploding.

Soon the rocket’s altitude was 2,000 feet.

Then 1,000.

500.

As the ground came into view, fire from the engine kicked up a plume of dust. The employees at Blue Origin rose to their feet in unison. The rocket was under control, descending gently, like a hot-air balloon coming in for a landing.

“One hundred and fifty feet,” the flight controller called out.

“Seventy feet.”

“Fifty feet. Velocity steady.”

There was one last flash of the engines, a bright orange glow shining through the dust and smoke. Then, it went out.

“Touchdown.”

The room broke out in pandemonium. The employees celebrated wildly, hugging one another, giving high fives. The rocket booster stood in the center of the pad like a giant trophy.

Jeff Bezos had watched from the control room of his company’s West Texas launch site. It was “one of the greatest moments of my life,” he would later say. “I was misty-eyed.”

Twenty-eight days later, another rocket was falling from the sky. This time, it was a much bigger booster that had been flying at a much greater velocity, a speed capable of crossing not just the threshold of space but of getting its payload to orbit Earth. For this landing attempt, the chances of success were even more improbable, the chance of disaster, far greater.

About ten minutes after blasting off into the dark, evening skies over Cape Canaveral, Florida, the fire from the rocket engine suddenly appeared like a streetlight in the distance, a shimmering, ethereal beacon lowering through the clouds.

As they watched on television screens, the SpaceX employees who had gathered at the company’s headquarters outside Los Angeles on this evening just before Christmas 2015 cheered it just as their rivals at Blue Origin had done—and then some.

Elon Musk watched the rocket reappear from outside on a causeway. Then, he sprinted back into the control room to see the image of the rocket standing proudly on the landing pad. Like Bezos, he would say this was one of the greatest days of his life. A “revolutionary moment,” he called it, one that “quite dramatically improves my confidence that a city on Mars is possible.”

SOME FIFTY YEARS after the advent of the Space Age, no one ever had flown a rocket past the edge of space and landed it vertically. Now, it had been performed twice in less than a month.

For generations, spaceflight had been celebrated largely for the takeoffs. But the landings were reminiscent of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s touching down on the surface of the moon in the lunar module. Or the “seven-minutes of terror” landing of the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars. The sight of the boosters standing on terra firma, scorched but triumphant, portended a sense of arrival, and offered hope for another Apollo 11 moment, the next giant leap many had felt they were promised but had never come.

Even more impressive was that the landings had been accomplished not by nations—not even NASA had pulled off such a feat—but by a pair of private companies. Backed by billionaires intent on developing reusable rockets, which could fly, land, then fly again, they were pursuing a holy grail—a technology with the potential to dramatically lower the cost of space travel.

For decades, the first stages of rockets were ditched into the ocean after powering their payloads to space. To Musk and Bezos, that was an incredible waste, like throwing away an airplane after flying from New York to Los Angeles. Now they had shown that rockets could fly not just up, but back down, landing with precision and reigniting interest in human space travel in a way not seen in decades.

The landings had touched off celebrations not just at Blue Origin and SpaceX, but among their legions of growing fans, who watched the viral videos by the millions. It was the 1960s revisited, but on YouTube and Reddit, where the new space fans congregated the way enthusiasts once crowded Cocoa Beach along the cape. With unbridled enthusiasm, they cheered this new Space Age, just as their parents cheered John Glenn blasting off to orbit in a moment that eroded Walter Cronkite’s steely, newsman’s detachment. “Oh, go baby!” he had gushed, live on air, as that rocket tore a hole in the sky.

MUSK AND BEZOS were the leaders of this resurrection of the American space program, a pair of billionaires with vastly different styles and temperaments. Always audacious, Musk had plowed far ahead, his triumphs and failures commanding center stage. Bezos remained quiet and clandestine, his mysterious rocket venture kept hidden behind the curtain.

But there were others. Like Bezos, Richard Branson was promising to fly tourists past the edge of space to get glimpses of Earth from above and experience a few minutes of weightlessness. Paul Allen, the cofounder of Microsoft, who had backed the first commercial spacecraft to reach space, was now building the largest airplane the world had ever seen. Bigger than Howard Hughes’s Spruce Goose, it would be able to “air launch” rockets from 35,000 feet—and perhaps even a new space shuttle, called “Black Ice,” it was developing in secret.

Together these Space Barons were behind some of the biggest brands in the world—Amazon, Microsoft, Virgin, Tesla, PayPal—that have disrupted industries ranging from retail to credit cards to air travel. And now they were betting vast swaths of their enormous fortunes that they could make space available to the masses, and push human space travel past where governments had gone.

The story of their dramatic struggle to open the frontier was an improbable one, full of risk and high adventure, a crash that cost the life of a test pilot, a rocket explosion, and suspicions of sabotage. There were lawsuits pitting an underdog upstart against the nation’s military-industrial complex, a political fight that went all the way to the White House, visions to put humans on the moon and Mars, and, of course, the historic landings that heralded what Bezos was calling a new “golden age of space exploration.”

At its heart, the story was fueled by a budding rivalry between the two leaders of this new space movement. The tension would play out in legal briefs and on Twitter, skirmishes over the significance of their respective landings and the thrust of their rockets, and even a dispute over the pad that would launch them. Musk, the brash hare, was blazing a trail for others to follow, while Bezos, the secretive and slow tortoise, who was content to take it step by step in a race that was only just beginning.




TIMELINE

September 2000 Jeff Bezos founds Blue Operations LLC, the precursor to Blue Origin.
March 2002 Elon Musk incorporates Space Exploration Technologies.
December 2003 First powered flight of SpaceShipOne.
December 2003 Musk shows off the Falcon 1 rocket in Washington, DC.
September 2004 Richard Branson acquires technology behind SpaceShipOne and vows to create the world’s first commercial spaceline with first flights in 2007.
October 2004 SpaceShipOne wins the Ansari X Prize.
March 2005 Blue Origin flies Charon, its first test vehicle, to 316 feet.
March 2006 SpaceX attempts first launch of Falcon 1, which fails.
August 2006 NASA awards SpaceX a $278 million contract as part of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program.
November 2006 Blue Origin launches Goddard, a test rocket, to 285 feet.
September 2008 SpaceX’s Falcon 1 successfully reaches orbit for the first time.
December 2008 NASA awards SpaceX a $1.6 billion contract to fly cargo to the International Space Station.
January 2010 President Barack Obama releases NASA budget proposal that kills the George W. Bush–era Constellation program.
April 2010 Obama gives speech at the Kennedy Space Center and visits with Musk at pad 40.
June 2010 First flight of the Falcon 9 launches successfully.
July 2011 NASA’s space shuttle flies for the last time, leaving the United States with no way to launch astronauts to space.
August 2011 Blue Origin’s PM-2 test rocket crashes in West Texas.
December 2011 Paul Allen announces plans to build Stratolaunch, the largest plane ever built, which would be used to “air launch” rockets.
May 2012 SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft becomes first commercial vehicle to reach the International Space Station.
March 2013 Bezos’s deep-sea expedition recovers the F-1 engines from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
September 2013 Tensions between SpaceX and Blue Origin heighten over Launch Complex 39A. Musk says chances of “unicorns dancing in the flame duct” are greater than Bezos building a NASA-qualified rocket that can reach orbit.
April 2014 SpaceX sues the US Air Force over right to compete for Pentagon launch contracts.
September 2014 SpaceX and Boeing win contracts to fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. SpaceX’s contract is worth up to $2.6 billion; Boeing’s, $4.2 billion.
October 2014 Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo crashes in the Mojave Desert.
April 2015 Blue Origin successfully launches New Shepard to the edge of space for the first time.
June 2015 Falcon 9 explodes during launch to resupply the space station with cargo.
September 2015 Bezos announces that Blue Origin will launch its new orbital rocket from Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral.
November 2015 New Shepard lands successfully for the first time.
December 2015 Falcon 9 lands successfully for the first time.
February 2016 Richard Branson unveils new SpaceShipTwo spacecraft.
September 2016 Falcon 9 explodes on the launchpad during fueling.
September 2016 Musk reveals plan to get to Mars during speech at the International Astronautical Congress.
October 2016 Blue Origin retires its first New Shepard booster after it flies and lands for the fifth time in a row.
January 2017 Blue Origin pitches NASA on a plan to fly cargo to the surface of the moon.
February 2017 Musk announces plan to fly two paying citizens around the moon.
September 2017 Musk announces plan to create a base on the moon.



PART I

IMPOSSIBLE




1

“A Silly Way to Die”

MARCH 6, 2003.

This was not how Jeff Bezos wanted to die.

He was seated in the passenger seat of a ruby-red helicopter, surrounded by an eccentric cast of characters—a cowboy, an attorney, and a pilot nicknamed “Cheater” who was best known for being forced at gunpoint to fly into the grounds of the New Mexico state penitentiary to bust out three inmates. It was a little after ten a.m. The sun had burned off the last of the morning chill as the day was heating up fast. The breeze had picked up, and with four passengers, the fully loaded helicopter struggled to lift off out of a canyon near Cathedral Mountain in the warm, thin, high-altitude air of West Texas.

Instead of going up, the helicopter began cruising along the floor of the clearing, moving faster and faster but unable to gain lift above the tree line.

“Oh, shit!” Cheater exclaimed.

In the backseat, Ty Holland, the cowboy who was serving as a guide to take Bezos around the backcountry, looked up from the topographical map he’d been studying. Bezos was sitting directly in front of him in the passenger seat, holding on; Bezos’s attorney, Elizabeth Korrell, was seated next to Holland, behind the pilot. Cheater was jostling the controls, a grimace on his face, as he was “weaving and dodging between the trees,” Bezos recalled.

Holland had been worried about this. The wind picks up at this time of year, swirling across the dead, desiccated desert, scattering the tumbleweed and blowing great plumes of dust. It could be especially bad up here, some 5,000 feet above the desert floor, near Cathedral Mountain, a gradual, barren incline that rises into a towering butte that from a distance looks like an elephant. But it wasn’t so much the wind that was giving them difficulty. It was their weight, and the altitude, and the warm, thin air, all of which had conspired against them.

Just a few minutes earlier, Holland had urged them to get going to the next stop. But Bezos had wanted to walk around, take another look at the land, the view that carries some 80 miles to the Mexican border. The vista, miles upon miles of empty Texas desert, must have been soothing, especially for someone who led as hectic a life as Bezos. The run of the mountainside down into the desert plain, as desolate and dead brown as his hometown of Seattle was dense and lush green. The quiet of the vast expanse. Bezos had said something that morning about how he had spent summers as a kid at his grandfather’s ranch in South Texas. He clearly had an appreciation for this rugged, barren country.

Holland knew little of his charge other than he was a billionaire, and that he had made his money selling books and who knows what else over the Internet on a site known as Amazon.com. He also knew that Bezos’s quiet moment here at the base of Cathedral Mountain was being disturbed by a gathering breeze in the cedar trees with a sinister pitch that was making Holland nervous.

“We need to get out of here on account of the wind,” he’d said. “You can’t fly these helicopters up here with the wind.”

Now the helicopter was in trouble. And Cheater, the pilot, was frantically trying to gain control, working the controls as if he were riding a bucking bronco at a rodeo. But there was little he could do. Best just to hold the reins and brace for impact, Holland thought. The helicopter slammed down hard and one of the landing skids caught a mound of dirt, toppling it over. The chopper’s blades crashed into the ground, splintering into shards that could at any moment slice into the cabin.

Outside, the world turned upside down as the helicopter toppled into a lonely ribbon of a creek that just happened to be named “Calamity.” Inside the cabin, the passengers were jostled around like pinballs, ricocheting from the force of impact, then lurching sideways as the helicopter flipped over.

The chopper’s cabin lay partially submerged in the shallow creek, and water was beginning to gush inside. Somehow Holland ended up swallowing a mouthful. He did not want to survive a harrowing crash only to drown in a creek. He yanked desperately at his seatbelt. But somehow the mayhem of the crash coupled with the panic-fueled adrenaline made it impossible to undo. The seatbelt that had just saved him was now strangling him, pressing down on his chest and hips, ever tighter.

Bezos looked into the back of the helicopter to make sure Korrell was okay, but she had disappeared.

“Where’s Elizabeth?” he asked, frantically.

There was no response. Then, they saw a hand rising from the water underneath Holland. During the crash, he had pinned the attorney underwater without even knowing he was on top of her. They scrambled to get her out of her seatbelt and her head above water. She gasped for breath. Her lower back was in intense pain. But she had survived. Miraculously, they all had.

They climbed out of the helicopter, one by one, gathering on the bank, taking stock. Bezos and Cheater had nicks and bruises from hitting their head against the dashboard. Korrell had broken her lower vertebrae. Holland’s arms and shoulder hurt like hell. He must have torn a muscle in the crash or the scramble to get that damn seatbelt off.

Looking down at the totaled helicopter, they realized how lucky they had been. The crash had amputated the rear tail boom. The chopper lay on its side in the creek, its top rotors scalped. Fuel had spilled out everywhere, so even though Korrell had nearly drowned, the water prevented the helicopter from catching fire. Nearby, the trees were mangled as if chopped by a gardener’s shears, the soil butchered—a scene altogether different from the serenity Bezos had been enjoying just a few moments before.

“It was harrowing. We were very lucky,” Bezos said later. “I can’t believe we all walked away from it.”

FROM THE START, Holland had thought flying in a helicopter was a bad idea. Not just because he had never been in one. Or that they’d be flying into some rugged, isolated country. Holland believed that the best way to look at property in the backcountry was by horseback, his preferred means of travel. “You can get a better idea of the country by riding on horseback than flying over it in a dang helicopter,” he thought.

But Bezos and his attorney “were in a big rush,” Holland recalled. The trip by horse could take days. They only had a few hours.

Holland had gone on this excursion as a favor to a friend who was a real estate broker. Bezos was looking to buy a ranch, and the broker had asked Holland to show him around. No one knew the country back here as he did, and he was happy to oblige. Holland figured that Bezos, now thirty-nine years old, was looking for a place to relax on weekends, run a few cattle, and pretend to be a cowboy. Maybe relive the childhood memories of summers on his grandfather’s ranch in South Texas.

Holland didn’t own a computer, let alone go on the Internet. “I knew exactly nothing about him or Amazon or Internet or any of that stuff,” he said.

Nearly a decade after Bezos had quit his job on Wall Street to sell books on the web, Amazon was starting to take off. In January 2002, the company had posted its first quarterly profit, $5 million. And it had continued to grow, branching out from books to music, toys, clothes, kitchen supplies, and electronics, as customers became more comfortable with using their computer to buy almost anything. In 2000, Amazon had sold 400,000 copies of the Harry Potter book released that year. Three years later, it had sold 1.4 million copies of the next installment, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Amazon was thriving at a time when many others had collapsed in a stock market swoon that claimed countless so-called dotcoms.

“We’ve seen the worst of the shakeout,” an analyst told the Washington Post, after the company posted another profit in early 2003, a couple of months before the helicopter crash. “Now there are some behemoths starting to emerge.”

Amazon’s strategy was “get big fast,” luring customers with the convenience of the Internet and the low prices that the site was becoming known for. Despite the get-rich-quick hype that had surrounded so many Internet startups, Amazon took a slow and steady approach, keeping its prices low, offering free shipping, even while critics said it would never work.

In headlines during the late 1990s, Business Week had derided the company as “Amazon.Toast,” and Barron’s called it “Amazon.Bomb,” with an unflattering photo of Bezos, who showed it to an audience and said, “My mom hates this picture.”

But by early 2003, with sales in every major segment growing by double digits, Bezos was as confident as ever in the company’s approach. “It’s working,” he said. “It’s the right investment to make, and it’s in the long-term best interest of shareholders and our customers.”

The iPhone was still four years away from its debut, but he was confident that the Internet was really only just getting started. In a TED Talk weeks before the West Texas helicopter crash, he compared it to the early days of the electrical industry. The web in 2003 was about where the electrical industry was in 1908, he argued, when the electric socket hadn’t yet been invented and appliances had to be plugged into light sockets.

“If you really do believe it’s the very, very beginning,” he said, “then you’re incredibly optimistic. And I do think that’s where we are.”

With Amazon’s success, Bezos’s wealth was growing rapidly. Fortune magazine reported in 2003 that with Amazon’s stock price tripling, his net worth grew by $3 billion to a total of $5.1 billion. He vaulted to number 32 on the list of wealthiest Americans, ahead of New York media titan Michael Bloomberg and the Koch brothers, who ran a vast manufacturing and investment empire.

March 2003 was, then, a good time to go looking for real estate. To allow himself a measure of freedom to indulge his true passion, even if he rarely spoke of it.

BEZOS DIDN’T SAY anything about why he wanted to buy land in this hideaway corner of Texas, full of rattlesnakes, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and not much else. Holland, a stolid, soft-spoken rancher who spent as much time around cattle as people, didn’t ask. Bezos struck him as a “different breed of cat,” one he couldn’t relate to.

Suspicious as Holland was about the helicopter, he was also wary of its pilot, Charles Bella, who was something of a legend in his hometown of El Paso. He had a handlebar mustache and a penchant for fistfights and profanity. His nickname, “Cheater,” came from his days of racing cars: sore losers had accused Bella of cheating and the nickname had stuck. “It turned out to be a compliment,” he told a magazine in 2009. He’d been hired by Hollywood to fly in several movies, including Rambo III and a Chuck Norris flick called Lone Wolf McQuade. In addition to his work as a helicopter pilot, he kept a gaggle of exotic animals—including a bear, timber wolves, mountain lions, and an alligator—at his home. The local game warden would call on him from time to time, once telling the El Paso Times that “Cheater has a way with animals. He can go into a cage with injured mountain lions, and they turn into pussycats.”

What he was best known for, though, was the prison break. In 1988, he had flown his Gazelle helicopter—incidentally, the same one he flew in Rambo III—into the prison, freeing three inmates. After a two-hour chase, he was arrested and charged with conspiracy. But F. Lee Bailey, the famed criminal lawyer who would go on to be part of O. J. Simpson’s defense, represented him and mounted a vigorous defense that led to his acquittal.

The morning of the prison break, Cheater claimed, a woman had hired him to look at some real estate, just as Bezos later would do. She was dressed in bright red pants and a floral print shirt. That morning, she had taken several guns from a roommate, leaving her a note that read, “Katie, I’m taking your guns because I need them more than you do.”

Soon after they took off, she took out one of the guns, a .357 magnum, pointed it at Cheater’s head, and demanded he fly into the prison to free her boyfriend, a convicted murderer serving a life-plus-sixty-years sentence, and two of his friends.

She was obese, Cheater recalled, about 250 pounds. “I’m thinking I’m in deep shit because if this ol’ gal thinks that guy loves her, she won’t stop at nothing, because she’ll never find another guy,” he told Texas Monthly years later.

He said he tried grabbing at the gun, but his hand was sore from a fistfight days before and he couldn’t wrest it free. They landed on the prison ball field near first base, where the three prisoners were waiting. They scrambled aboard, one hanging on to the helicopter skid, while guards fired from the prison tower. Cheater wasn’t sure what to do.

“Her boyfriend is slapping me on the head with a gun saying he’s gonna blow my head off if I don’t get going,” he recalled. “The engine is already up to the max. I’m pulling it all the way through the temperature range. It should have exploded. And finally they shove this one guy off the skids and one of the guys in the helicopter jumps off and runs alongside it and he climbs back in when we start to take off.”

The chopper barely cleared the fence, and they were off. Soon they had bigger problems. The feds were in pursuit, chasing them down in a Black Hawk helicopter for nearly two hours until it was clear there was no escape. Cheater finally landed at the Albuquerque airport.

Genre:

  • "The Space Barons by Christian Davenport, a Washington Post reporter, is an exciting narrative filled with colorful reporting and sharp insights. The book sparkles because of Davenport's access to the main players and his talent for crisp storytelling."—Walter Isaacson, NewYork Times Book Review
  • "The Space Barons is a pacy, smartly reported book on the new generation of entrepreneurs who are transforming the business of space... [The] book fizzes with some wonderful human stories of imagination and endeavor but also provides a broad sweep of the current state of the space industry."—Financial Times
  • "Davenport displays his reporting and storytelling skills. His writing is tight and, suitably for the subject matter, propulsive. He fleshes out the main protagonists with fine character vignettes."—TheWashington Post
  • "Highly accessible... Davenport's access to key players, from the companies' founders to its employees, lends authority to his account."—Scientific Inquirer
  • "Important and revealing"—The Weekly Standard
  • "The Space Barons is fastidious and engrossing"—TheSpectator
  • "Entertaining, skillfully narrated book"—The Week
  • "In The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the Quest to Colonize the Cosmos, Christian Davenport tells the backstories of the billionaires who are vying for control of the emerging NewSpace industry."—The New Yorker
  • "Christian Davenport has written a terrific book on the new space entrepreneurs."—Newt Gingrich
  • "Topping my reading list for space fans this summer is The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the Quest to Colonize the Cosmos, Christian Davenport's fine new book on competition in the New Space world."—Forbes.com
  • "In The Space Barons, Davenport lays out a compelling narrative of how Musk (SpaceX, Tesla), Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin, Amazon), Richard Branson (Virgin) and Paul Allen (Microsoft) all dreamed at an early age of the prospects of commercial space travel...Through compelling storytelling... [and] impressive research and extensive interviews."—Winnipeg Free Press
  • "In prose more than worthy of a staff writer at the Washington Post, Davenport glides effortlessly between biographical vignettes, engineering and financial challenges in building spacecraft, government obstacles to private space exploration, project failures and triumphs, and rivalry as 'the best rocket fuel.'"—Seeking Alpha
  • "Strap in, you dreamers of space travel, you lovers of invention, you admirers of the unquenchable thirst for exploration, for here is a book that will thrill you to your core... It's a wonderful story, a thrilling adventure of literal and metaphoric highs and lows, based on interviews with the billionaires but encompassing a much broader range of reporting... A big story, told through its vividly evoked small details."Booklist
  • "Readers will thrill at this lucid, detailed, and admiring account of wealthy space buffs who are spending their own money, making headlines, producing genuine technical advances, and resurrecting the yearning to explore the cosmos."—Kirkus, Starred Review
  • "Starting with a blank canvas, Christian Davenport has painted a comprehensive portrait of some of the most influential leaders in commercial space, and indeed of the industry itself. Well-researched and entertaining, The Space Barons gives both a rich texture to the beginnings and a tantalizing outline of the future of commercial human space travel."—Michael Lopez-Alegria, former NASAastronaut, past president of the Commercial Space Flight Federation, andprincipal, MLA Space, LLC
  • "A must-read. A compelling account of how today's self-made tycoons are driven to change our world and our relationship with outer space. This is distinctly an American story, nowhere but America could these Space Barons rise, thrive, and succeed. Follow their journey into the future."—Dr. Mark Albrecht, executive secretary of the National Space Councilunder President George H. W. Bush and author of Falling Back to Earth:A First Hand Account of the Great Space Race and the End of the Cold War
  • "Unlike the space race of the 1950s and 1960s, the new space race is not a competition between superpowers-it is a competition among billionaires with egos and ambitions that match their fortunes. The Space Barons provides a superb behind-the-scenes look that chronicles the new space race from its beginning some two decades ago to the headlines of today. This book is a must-read for everyone who fell in love with space as a kid and still longs to reach for the heavens."—Todd Harrison, Center for Strategic and International Studies

On Sale
Mar 20, 2018
Page Count
320 pages
Publisher
PublicAffairs
ISBN-13
9781610398305

Christian Davenport

About the Author

Christian Davenport is a staff writer at the Washington Post covering the space and defense industries for the financial desk. He joined the Post in 2000, and has written about the DC-area sniper shootings, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, and the burial problems at Arlington National Cemetery. He is a recipient of the Peabody award for his work on veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury and has been on reporting teams that were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize three times.

Before joining the financial staff, Davenport was an editor on the Metro desk, overseeing coverage of local government and politics. He has also worked at Newsday, Philadelphia Inquirer, and Austin American-Statesman. As a frequent radio and television commentator, he has appeared on MSNBC, CNN, PBS NewsHour, and several NPR shows, including All Things Considered and Diane Rehm.

Learn more about this author